Garden of the Heart

The heart is like a garden.
It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love.
What seed would you plant in it?

I observed with interest that when varieties of emotions are asked to be spelled out in a workshop, the list of negative emotions named by the participants usually outnumber the positive; it is as if there are limited positive emotions compare to its opposites. It is a common occurrence and I am not surprised. And if I were to seek cooperation from the participants to share with me on what scale of emotions do they think they experience throughout each day, having a scale of 0 as negative to 10 as positive, majority of the answers that come back would be above 5. It is a wide contrast to the first feedback during the initial period of a workshop.

I wish to make two valid conclusions from an observation based on my own personal experience of the mind. First, if I was not a practitioner of self-inquiry, I may not have truly recognized what is within my scope of emotions throughout the day. I may not have realized that a major part of the actions I take are motivated by negative thoughts or emotions. That there was some form of stress underlying my daily activities. That restlessness was the cause of my continuous seeking and doing. In other words, my actions were not motivated by inspiration, by love or joy but rather a dread commitment of chores I “had” to do. And usually these statements were returned with replies of “what choice do I have” mentality. I can’t say this is not a valid retort as there is much commitment as an individual, and also as a society, to address and undertake in day to day issues at hand, to live a life of decency. But the question again is not about the work or activities we undertake but rather the attitude that is accompanying it. It is these attitudes that determine our emotions and also thoughts.

Secondly, I observed that it is the mentality of not “right” to admit that we have more negative emotions than positive. There is an ingrained societal mentality that we have to hide or suppress our emotions; mostly negative; for us to be efficient in our deals. We were told that expressing our feelings is inappropriate and that we are only expressing our weaknesses if we were to do so. Burying our feelings underneath our actions is one of the main causes of misery. In truth, feelings can’t be buried except to mask over, hence the word, personality or persona to mean a mask. Ironically, it is feelings that we are all seeking in life and yet we are told not to feel. How could it be possible to experience happiness if what be at the bottom are all unresolved negative emotions? It is not unusual that when happiness finally arrive at the doorstep, there is a feeling of incompleteness in it, that there is a better happiness somewhere else than what is here in front of me to savor – it is the result of the hidden unresolved feelings.

Could it be this that there is no true “happiness”? That there is so much “look good” factors running in our society, or more true, running in the mind that we are not true to ourselves any longer? That we have ingrained mentality of blame and accusation hidden in our hearts but not spoken? Not that we have to express or burst it out to hurt others but rather the suppression which is what causes us to put the responsibility of our pain onto others; which we did not take the responsibility to investigate what is going through the mind and to take appropriate steps to address it, either through right understanding or right perception. That true happiness is found whenever we recognize, understand and accept what is within us, and not through the contrary or ignoring it.

My meditation teacher once reminded me that it is because of our firsthand experience of what our mind is, that inclines us to purify it. When we are ignorant to our own mind, cultivation is impossible. Thus we have to admit that the mind is predominantly filled with negative emotions before the actual journey of love and wisdom begins.

The Wisdom of all Wisdom – Ignorance

To recognize ignorance is the beginning of your journey “Home”. To be precise, it is the beginning, the middle and also the end of the entire journey towards freedom. What block us from total freedom is just the one and only thing – which in reality is not in existence, except our ignorance over it. Ignorance is just a definition of non-wisdom – the inability to reflect or see the block that we have created for ourselves. It is like focusing on the prison walls, lamenting the pain of being trap, unknowing that freedom is just a breath away; if only the person realized that the prison door was never locked in the first place.

And that is what ignorance does to us. It is ignorance that blocks us from realizing the Truth – not that the Truth has left or forsaken us but rather the Truth is always in its pristine present – awaiting us to realize. It is also ignorance that makes us repeat umpteen times the unnecessary lessons to finally learn from it. And it is ignorance that makes us go round and round a wild goose chase, making us bark at the wrong tree all the time. Isn’t it ignorance that makes us not realize the true nature of things as they truly are? The question is not about making ignorance the bad guy or seeing ignorance as wrong but the wiser question would be, what caused the arising of ignorance?

There is no true linear answer to that except a chicken and egg scenario. Either one cannot be called the beginning or end except that they are interdependent of each other. Anything that arises has to pass and because of the passing, arising has to begin again. Where there is no arising, passing is out of the question. Where there is no passing, arising could not exist at all. The question thus is neither about arising nor passing, but the understanding of the dynamics of this nature. Recognizing and fully realizing this dynamic through direct experience disentangles the entire web of these processes from perpetuating further.

Hence, the arising of ignorance is due to ignorance and the ceasing of ignorance is the presence of wisdom. And for wisdom to arise, there must be wisdom as its initiator. Wisdom can undo ignorance but not the other way around as ignorance is a temporal state of make believe arising from an unawakened state. It is like watching a movie, temporary suspending our reality for a moment so as to allow ourselves to enjoy the unreality of the movie as reality. It is a make believe, so to speak.

Thus to say that all of us have the Buddha nature or Christ consciousness within, is to an extent, true. What only separate the masters from us is that they are awakened and we, are still asleep in our own make believe dream. Thus it is interesting when Jesus mentioned that all are given, but few are chosen is to mean that all of us are given the ticket to Kingdom or Liberation, whichever fits your view, but few chose to listen to it. Few took the step to journey the path to awakening as the make believe reality seems too real to be forsaken. Isn’t that ignorance of the highest order?

Many move around on this shore, few choose to cross over the shore.

Progressing or Regressing?

Despite our personal intimacy with our mind – the only space we feel at least private about, we seldom give time to ourselves to explore this domain to understand how it works. Many a times the experience we want to achieve is either random, flip shot, or a wild goose chase. Rarely are we able to ascertain a constant joy by working on its cause. Like an undeveloped land seen as potentials for developers to cultivate, the mind too is a potential goldmine for joy and peace to be cultivated. An undeveloped mind is equivalently similar to an unattended land with overgrown wild weeds.

The purpose of developing the mind is not for any reason other than for our own wellbeing. If wellbeing is our destination, or our aim, it is obvious that the journey too must be geared towards wellbeing. It is rather odd to think that we have to suffer to reap goodness. It is not consistent with the law of nature – as the journey at any and every one point is the destination itself and that the final destination is the culmination of all the points of destination. Thus it is obvious that if Peace is what I am aiming to achieve, I must first develop little peace in my journey. And that is exactly in consistent with the law of nature – the law of causal relationship – what we sow is what we reap.

Thus it is utmost important to know what our aim is when we come into the field of developing the mind so that what we sow along the journey is exactly what we wish to achieve at the ultimate end. What is it that we really wish for? And with all that chase of material possessions, what is the underlying need that we are ultimately looking for? I always find it amusing that we begin the journey of life seeking happiness and we do not know where happiness is, except to follow the pathways carved by past travelers having similar desires. We seldom question whether that pathway finally leads them to their quest. Do we follow the flocks blindly or question the rationality of those paths?

Observe the nature of the world. Everyone is seeking money as pathway for happiness but is there happiness in the end? Ironically, those who seek happiness finally end up seeking for money instead. They forget their main purpose along the journey and fall into the ideas of what happiness is. There is nothing unwise or wrong about money except that we need to get our priorities right, so that we don’t end up wasting precious time on a wild goose chase, seeking for things that are not what we desire or worst, having the opposite of what we were seeking for in the first place.

Similarly with wisdom. If wisdom is ultimately what we wish to achieve, the journey we take on must be inclined towards wisdom. Wisdom is born from understanding, and understanding can only arise through self-inquiry, questioning or introspection – inquiring into the nature of things as they truly are. Wisdom and Truth are related, if not synonymous. With major appliances automated in our lives, we seldom put intelligence to use, not to mention self-inquiry. Ironically it is intelligence that made our lives easier and comfortable. But in return of comfort, the mind inclines towards stupor and inactivity.  The world is supported by convenience and with it comes the bane of complacency. Our muscles are not as active, our brain cells less activated, and our mind tranquilized away from intelligence. Thus it is not incorrect to conclude that comparing to the past, it is obvious that more effort is needed to develop active inquiry, to develop wisdom.

The world seems to progress, and yet the mind seems to regress on the opposite direction towards ignorance. Weird isn’t it?

To Speak or Not to Speak

Word Pollution

There are words spoken to defend
A view that one felt being threatened

There are words spoken to attack
For a view that one held defensively

There are words spoken frivolously
To ignite conversations to escape boredom

There are words spoken insidiously
To incite gossips out of jealousy

There are words spoken to occupy silence
when quietness is not appreciated.

There are words spoken meaninglessly
Out of guilt from mannerism and cultural bondage.

There are also words spoken to invoke control
When vulnerability rears its head.

There are words spoken to provoke anger
To revenge the pain that one is in.

There are words spoken to draw attention
For the need to be loved.

There are words spoken seductively
To lure desire into grip.

There are words spoken with an open question
Expecting others to fill in the blank.

There are words spoken with a close question
Forcing others to come to a conclusion.

Words define the beholder
Not the listener until one buys into those words

Where are words that come with compassion?
Where are words that come with unconditional love?
Where are words that come with wisdom?

That quiver others to tears of joy when rightfully spoken?

Words are empty when it is devoid of essence
Words are hurtful when it is from ignorance
Words are meaningless when it is not from the heart
Words are simply useless when spoken without thoughts.

Like garbage floating aimlessly in the sea
Creating mismatch with what nature is offering
There are much words floating energetically around
By insensible talking and meaningless purpose.

It is time we learn to watch our thoughts
That are instigated by these floats
It is time we maintain silence and stillness
For the floats to dance its end.

* * * *

Triple Filter Test – The Secret to Sharing Information

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”  “Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”

“Triple filter?”

“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the Triple filter test.

The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it and…”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good ?”  “No, on the contrary…”  “So,” Socrates continued, “You want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”  “No, not really.”  “Well,” concluded Socrates, “If what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

Meaning, except Meanings (Nothing More Than That)

“I am” has no Me in it except Meanings
Isn’t it mean to put a meaning that means not “me”?

What is passion? To my idea, the word “passion” has a connotation of sensuality in it. I never questioned how this idea was derived until now. As I schemed through my memory bank, I “saw” this experience coming from a novel I read many years ago, probably 30 years, found on my brother’s bookshelf. The book had a tint of eroticism in it. And that is how the meaning of passion got stuck on me! Do you now see how meanings of words become our reality?

That reminds me back of my journey as a Buddhist, many years ago. Not that I am no longer a Buddhist now, nor can I say I am still one. Again this is touching on the topic of neither this nor that but simply beyond both. Anyway, I have been taught through readings and sharing that “God” does not exist in Buddhism. Young at heart and blazing with enthusiasm then, I took this fact without an iota of doubt and made it my gospel of truth. I never questioned its meaning and now on looking back, it is an obvious arrogance and blindness on my part. The problem with this idea is that whenever I read any book that has the word God on it as its cover, I would totally put it back on the shelf altogether, irrelevant whether the book is expounding love, freedom or peace in it. I see total wrongness at it. Period. I never questioned my own defiled limiting thought patterns. All I knew was that I was advocating Truth (hmm… what Truth?).

Isn’t that the nature of the mind, the nature of an undeveloped mind? Play a game with yourself. Observe throughout the day the meaning you have on words. You will be shocked by the resistance and holding on to each meaning that comes through you. But they are merely words that point to something, not what it is, and yet they define our reality, which in reality are all empty and meaningless. My meaning of a word may be totally different from how you defined yours – isn’t what conflicts are all about? A person who uses the word “bullshit” frequently would not be able to see the impact it has upon others who are sensitive to that word. Similarly the word “love” has different impact on people who are betrayed, loved, cared, abused, or whatever meaning they have accepted in their system. Don’t take words too seriously, they define the speaker, not the listener.

For many years I had difficulty coming to peace with the meaning of God. I am my own enemy within, struggling to kill the God within me. I tried suppressing it by moving away from shelves that talked about God. I shun the word by shifting my attention elsewhere. What hell I was in, albeit an unconscious one. Only until the day I realized it was the idea in the mind that I needed to reconcile with, and that concerned no one (as if concern on others works!), only then my journey of compassion begun. I came upon a book that changed the way I looked at God – not that I had come to peace with God but came to peace with the idea of God. The meaning found in that book jived with my set of ideas which I was  already having in my system. Nothing changed except the change of perception. And that freed me from the tyranny of God. Not really God but my clinging on to the idea of God.

Similarly, for those who have an ingrained meaning of God within them, I invite you to consider that the meaning you have of God is not what it is, except whatever god-knows-what idea that you have entered into your system. To experience something, to make it self-evident, be it God or what not, whatever ideas found in our system has to be fully defragmented and probably reformatted before full realization comes to our fold. Only when we come to peace with what’s within can we come to Peace, finally.

And that is all it is in our system – views: unquestioned views. Isn’t what communication is all about in our lives? We only agree to those who jive with our ideas. When we don’t agree to what others say, we bring in another idea to jive it in, so as not to create any conflict within or without. That idea is called “agreeing to disagree”. But isn’t that another way of putting it bluntly that I need you but I don’t need to support your idea?  And observe that we have never gotten out from our old idea except redefining it.  We broaden the scope of ideas to encompass others into our field. Like multi-level marketing, we only increase the downliners but who we are have never changed. Is that ignorance, or wisdom?

Wisdom finds peace in solitude and impartiality in din. Never once does wisdom hold on or resist any situation. It melts into it with ease without conflict. It has no personal agenda as personality is not in its equation.  It has no motive of “what’s in it for me” as each response is coming from the space of peace and freedom, with love as its nature.

So is there God? I don’t know. What I only know is that there is a vastness far beyond the conditioning of the mind could ever perceived and that requires no name, no meaning. To put a name on it leads me back to the finger, not the moon.

Conversation that isn’t a Conservation of Truth

It is amusing to observe the people coming into my life as I sit quietly listening to the conversations they have with me and also the conversations they have with others – the inner chatter that each and every one of us carry as we exchange words now and then to complete what needs to be completed, within us.

At times the conversations are frivolous, focusing on issues that are none of my business. But the mind loves poking fun on others as if I was given the rights to intervene in another’s life. As if I have the rights to chart their lives with shoulds and should nots frequently arises in the chattering. Very often the sentences have smacks of complaints more than compliments. And if ever there are compliments, it has, many a times, come from the space of self-unworthiness or as a means to negate the guilt that has arisen due to the complaints.  Rarely the compliments are genuine expression of love – except when my heart quivers with intense joy and has the need to express appreciation.

There are conversations that are done just for the sake of killing time or entertaining a meaningless topic that was left unresolved in the mind. I do wonder at times how much nonsensical stuff is floating in the mind, waiting to be pulled out for others to take on. It is like sweeping rubbish out of the house, expecting others to clean it up for me. But of course that is an impossible feat as whatever ideas that I have can never leave me until I resolve it within, through the right understanding. Whatever I throw out only magnifies it, more so when unwarranted views are added on it, which occurs all the time. Do you notice that conversations that are not supportive of our views will end abruptly, either through a moving away, albeit diplomatically; or, a change of topic? Worst, the conversation may even turn into an argument when my expectation is not met as I struggle to hold steadfastly to my righteous view.

Yet there is another kind of conversation that arises due to boredom – the desire to escape from it or the need to kill it, as if it is wrong to have it in the system. Usually this kind of conversation leads meaninglessly nowhere, and even if it does come up meaningful, it is always about something that excites or agitates the mind. That is what the mind loves, away from the boring boredom.

Rarely conversations are stricken for the sake of making peace with oneself. Even if that is genuinely our main purpose, there are always loopholes along the conversation for the ego awaits for opportunities to seek for approval or for resounding support from others to see it “my way”. And rarely the conversation is completed with a sense of peace and love. At most time, it is a fulfillment of satisfaction of needs being met and seeds for conspiracy to germinate.

There are conversations of the ego and conversations of Spirit, or conversation of ignorance and conversation of wisdom. Listen deeply and you will know the difference. At any point we have the choice to turn it around either from ego to Spirit or Spirit to ego, depending whether we are inclining towards desire or inspiration. It is not about right or wrong, but about peace or war that we wage upon ourselves. Others are only here for us to make choices for our own sake, for in reality the inner world is what we are dealing with and that is all we have; though the ego tends to trick us to think that there is someone out there for us.